Without access to safe water and sanitation, children and families are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, with concern especially growing at the threat of a cholera outbreak.
"Cholera is particularly dangerous for the very young, the very old and the undernourished, so an outbreak could have disastrous consequences for children," said In Hye Sung, UNICEF emergency specialist, in a press release on Monday.
"Children under age 5 have the highest incidence of cholera and are more likely to die from it, so it’s critical we ensure that families have access to safe water as soon as possible," the UNICEF official stated.
Many of Goma’s inhabitants have been forced either to flee to nearby towns because their homes have been destroyed by lava or because they were advised by the government to leave due to the possibility of another eruption and the emission of noxious gasses.
UNICEF is working with domestic and international partners to address the issue, including supporting Regideso, the state-owned water company, to redirect and protect a by-pass piping system that will immediately send water from the pumping station next to Lake Kivu into part of the water supply system.
The number of districts without water in the city a fortnight after the eruption has now been reduced from 12 to four because of the by-pass installation.
When the work on a second bypass is completed, only two districts in the city should be without water.
In the past, cholera epidemics have started when residents of Goma collected dirty contaminated water from Lake Kivu to drink or wash pans.
During the eruption of May 22, a fissure burst in the side of Nyiragongo volcano, sending a torrent of molten lava towards Goma. Districts in the northern part of Goma were destroyed and 30 people were killed. Some 3,500 residents of Goma lost their houses. The main reservoir that supplies the northern section of the city with water was engulfed in lava.